Escalators: Are they allowed to be used on Shabbos or not?
(and the reasons behind it)
R' Yehoshua Neuwirth, in Shemirath Shabbath in 23:52 permits the use of escalators. R' Chaim Jachter indicates (1) that this is because escalators don't have the problems with elevators expressed by R' Levi Yitzchak Halperin, the main authority behind prohibiting them.
For a detailed discussion of the issues with elevators, read R' Jachter's four-part series on the topic. The topic is complicated, involving a great deal of engineering and Halachic understanding, but it seems from R' Jachter's summary that the main problem with elevators is that the weight of passengers on a descending elevator assists the motors in making it descend. I'm not completely sure why this issue doesn't apply to "down escalators," but I suspect that passengers on them impede the escalator by increasing frictional force opposite the direction of travel at least as much as they speed it up by adding gravitational force partially in the direction of travel.
(1) Probably based on a footnote in the original Hebrew version of the book, which I don't happen to have handy. Anyone who does and wants to fill in details would be welcome.
Well it is no fun if there is no Machlokes. Rabbi B Horovitz from Yeshiva Dvar Yerushalayim writes that "One may not use a lift or escalator." - see link
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